The Lord’s Day Evening
November 28, 2004
“Slain Before the Lord: The Sin Offering”
Dr. J. Ligon Duncan III
If you have your Bibles, I’d invite you to turn with me to
Leviticus, chapter six. Last week we were looking at Leviticus 6:19-23, and at
the priestly grain offering. And we saw several things in that passage of note.
First of all, the emphasis on consecration: the way that Aaron and his sons were
to express, to visibly manifest their consecration of the whole of themselves to
the Lord on the day of the high priest’s ordination by the giving of this grain
offering. That consecration through the giving of the grain was an act whereby
they said, ‘Lord, this bread represents me. I am wholly Yours. I am giving
myself to You.’ It was an offering of self-devotion, and it indicated the
priest’s giving himself in the entirety of himself to the Lord.
We also said that this priestly offering, like so
many other offerings that we have already seen, was given to emphasize the
assurance of God’s people of the acceptance of the Lord. It was offered up as a
soothing aroma to the Lord, and we said that the very sight of that smoke going
up to the Lord, the whole offering being consumed by fire, was a sign to God’s
people of their acceptance by God. It assured them that God had heard their
cries, and had forgiven their sins.
And we also said that that priestly grain offering
spoke of the reconciliation that was necessary for communion with God. It was a
permanent ordinance offered entirely up in smoke before the Lord. It was to be
burned entirely and not eaten. This reminded us, of course, that priests were
sinful and they needed forgiveness, too. And the daily offering of this by the
priests indicated that the restored communion which the people of God desired
required forgiveness. We also said that the very repetition of this grain
offering raised the question of who will mediate for the mediators. And we
pointed to Jesus Christ as the only One who could offer a perfect mediation on
Well, this week we turn to the sin offering, or the
purification offering, again. We looked at this from the standpoint of the
people of God offering it, in Leviticus 4. Now we’ll look at it from the
standpoint of the priestly role in receiving this offering of the people of God.
And before we look at this passage and hear it read and proclaimed, let’s turn
to God in prayer and ask for His help and blessing. Let’s pray.
Our Lord and our God, we thank You for Your word.
We thank You for the way You manifest Your love and care for Your people in Your
word, even in these intricate, detailed rituals commanded by You through Your
servant Moses for Your old covenant people. We pray that as your new covenant
people we would learn of Your purposes for us in Jesus Christ, even as we study
these old covenant rituals. We ask that You would cause us to behold wonderful
things in Your law. We ask especially that as we see our sin, as we see the need
for atonement, we will see also our Savior and the fullness of the atoning
offering which He has offered up on our behalf, and that we would be thereby
assured of salvation in Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray. Amen.
Hear God’s word in Leviticus six, beginning
in verse twenty-four.
“Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to Aaron and to his sons, saying,
‘This is the law of the sin offering: in the place where the burnt offering is
slain the sin offering shall be slain before the Lord; it is most holy. The
priest who offers it for sin shall eat it. It shall be eaten in a holy place,
in the court of the tent of meeting. Anyone who touches its flesh shall become
consecrated; and when any of its blood splashes on a garment, in a holy place
you shall wash what was splashed on. Also the earthenware vessel in which it
was boiled shall be broken; and if it was boiled in a bronze vessel, then it
shall be scoured and rinsed in water. Every male among the priests may eat of
it; it is most holy. But no sin offering of which any of the blood is brought
into the tent of meeting to make atonement in the holy place shall be eaten it
shall be burned with fire.’’”
Amen. And thus ends this reading of God’s holy, inspired,
inerrant and authoritative word. May He add His blessing to it.
There are three things in this passage tonight
that I want to draw to your attention. The first has to do, again, with
assurance. And in verses 25-26, Moses gives us again God’s instructions
about the sin offering in order to show that God had provided for His people’s
Secondly, I want you to see something of the
holiness of an atoning sacrifice. In verses 27-28, there is an emphasis
here on the holiness of this sacrifice and of its blood.
And then finally, I want you to see something of
the sin and purification offerings for the whole congregation and the priests.
If you look at verse 30, you’ll notice that they are to be entirely offered to
the Lord. And I want you to see what this says about our restored fellowship
I. The need to know of our
forgiveness and the Lord’s acceptance.
Let’s walk through this passage together, then,
first looking at verses 25-26. Here Moses speaks to Aaron. The Lord has given
him this instruction, saying,
“‘Speak to Aaron and to his sons, saying “This is the law of the sin offering:
in the place where the burnt offering is slain the sin offering shall b slain
before the Lord; it is most holy. The priest who offers it for sin shall eat
it. It shall be eaten in a holy place, in the court of the tent of meeting.’”
offerings we have seen Moses stress the need of the people of God to know that
the offering which they have made for their sins has been accepted by God,
because one of the purposes of worship is to come before the Lord and to
experience the blessing, the benefit, of knowing that our sin-wrecked fellowship
has been restored with Him through the atoning sacrifice.
And so there were
various devices established within the ritual ceremonial law designed to assure
the worshipper that his offering of atonement had indeed been accepted by God,
that he had been accepted by God. The Lord knows our need of forgiveness and our
need to know that God’s forgiveness has been extended to us, that we have been
And there are several
things in verses 25-26 that the Lord commands in order that the worshipper who
has brought this sin offering would know that his forgiveness has been
extended. Look at three or four of them.
First of all, in
verse25 we’re told that the sacrifice is to be brought before the Lord.
Forgiveness comes from the Lord, and so the sacrifice is to be brought before
the Lord. It’s to be brought into His presence, into the ritual precincts of
the tent of meeting, because forgiveness comes from the Lord. And so the very
place that it is brought is designed to assure the worshipper that the sacrifice
is going to be accepted of God.
And then, secondly,
notice that the death penalty is enacted upon the sacrifice. The sacrifice
is slain before the Lord. In fact, in verse 25 this is emphasized twice:
‘…in the place where the burnt offering is slain, the
sin offering shall be slain before the Lord. It is most holy.”
Again in verse 26, we’re told that the priest who
has assisted in the offering of this sacrifice is to eat it in that place: “The
priest who offers it for sin shall eat it.” This portion of this sin sacrifice
is eaten by the priest, again, to assure the worshipper that the offering is
acceptable according to God’s commands and that it has been accepted. The
worshipper has been accepted by God.
And furthermore, notice that it is to be eaten in
the precincts of the tent of meeting, a holy place (verse 26): “It shall be
eaten in a holy place, in the court of the tent of meeting.” The very
precincts, the very place where the offering is to be eaten is again designed to
assure the worshipper of its acceptance.
Now, Moses’ seriousness about these particular
charges, these commands to the priests designed to assure the people of God, is
brought into bold relief when we turn just a few chapters ahead to Leviticus,
chapter ten. Now, many of you will know Leviticus 10. It may be one of the two
most familiar chapters in the Book of Leviticus. Leviticus 16, the atonement
chapter, is a familiar chapter to most, even if we’re not overly familiar with
the Book of Leviticus, but Leviticus 10 is the chapter where we have the story
of Nadab and Abihu recorded, which is one of the most famous stories from
But if you’ll look past that story and look all the
way down to verse 16, you’ll find this very interesting piece of history
Leviticus 10:16 — “Moses searched carefully for the goat of the sin offering,
and behold, it had been burned up!”
Let me just pause there and say this sin offering
had been brought in, and instead of being eaten by the officiating priest, the
whole of this goat had been burned up. And so, we’re told in verse 16,
“…So he was angry with Aaron’s surviving sons Eleazar and Ithamar, saying,
‘Why did you not eat the sin offering at the holy place/ For it is most holy,
and He gave it to you to bear away the guilt of the congregation, to make
atonement for them before the Lord. Behold, since its blood had not been
brought inside, into the sanctuary, you should certainly have eaten it in the
sanctuary, just as I commanded.’”
Moses is angry with the priests! Why? Because they
have not eaten their portion of this sin offering, and thereby they have robbed
the congregation from the sense of assurance that God wanted them to have by
seeing the priests eating that offering in the holy, the consecrated, place,
there in the tent of meeting.
But you notice in verse 19 Aaron responds to Moses
“Behold, this very day they presented their sin offering and their burnt
offering before the Lord. When things like these happened to me, if I had eaten
a sin offering today, would it have been good in the sight of the Lord?”
What’s Aaron talking about? He’s talking about the
death of his sons. He’s saying, ‘Moses, my sons died today! And you want me to
sit down and eat the remains of this portion of the sin offering as a sign of
restored fellowship before the Lord of the people of God? I’m not in any kind
of shape to do that!’
And notice Moses’ response: “…when Moses heard
that, it seemed good in his sight.” There was a relenting on Moses’ part. But
you see how serious God was about assuring His people of the forgiveness of
sins? He’s ready to say to Aaron and to Eleazar and Ithamar, ‘Look, you failed
to do something that was designed to assure My people, even though your brothers
and your sons died today.’ That’s how serious God was with His mediators about
conveying to the people of God the assurance of their acceptance by God, the
assurance of their forgiveness of sins.
And this commitment on God’s part is no less in the
new covenant. We have signs that God has given to us in the new covenant, that
we have been accepted, that the offering for sin on our behalf has been
accepted. We could give many answers to this, but let me just point to one.
Turn with me in your Bibles to Hebrews, chapter ten. In Hebrews 10, a passage
that we’ve looked at before, look at verses 11-12. We looked at this when we
were considering the priests’ daily offering of this grain offering, but listen
to verses 11-12:
“Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same
sacrifices, which can never take away sins; but He, [that is, speaking of our
Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ…He, Jesus Christ] …having offered one
sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God.”
You see what the author of Hebrews is saying: that
the sign, the evidence, the witness that God has given to you of the
once-for-all efficacy of Jesus Christ’s offering for His atoning sacrifice is
that He sat down at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.
Turn back to Hebrews 8:1,2 where this is emphasized
“Now the main point in what has been said is this: we have such a high priest,
who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the
heavens, a minister in the sanctuary, and in the true tabernacle, which the Lord
pitched, not man.”
In other words, again the author of Hebrews is
saying, ‘Here’s the sign that God has given to you that you have been
forgiven of your sins as you trust in Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ has
ascended on high, and is sitting at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.
That is the sign to you, that’s God’s witness to you, that your sins have
been forgiven. As Jesus’ disciples see Him ascending into glory, one of the
things that they are seeing is a visible, tangible manifestation that God has
forgiven the sins of all those who trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation.
As God was serious about His people being assured of
the forgiveness of their sins under the old covenant through this ritual, even
to the point of being angry with Aaron and Eleazar and Ithamar, even on the day
of their brothers and sons, so also God has in the resurrection and ascension
and heavenly session of Jesus Christ given you a witness that your sins have
been forgiven. That’s how serious God is about giving His people assurance.
II. The need to convey the
holiness of the atoning sacrifice.
Secondly, turn back with me to Leviticus 6 and look
especially at verses 27-28. We see something of the sinfulness of sin and the
necessity of atonement in these verses. In verses 27-28, the instructions that
are given emphasize the need for the priests to convey to the people of God the
holiness of these atoning sacrifices. What a holy thing it is, to bring an
atoning sacrifice before the Lord. And there are five things in these two
little verses, verses 27-28, which emphasize the holiness of these sacrifices.
One: Notice that anyone who touches these
sacrifices, simply by touching them becomes ritually holy; becomes consecrated.
Look at verse 27: “Anyone who touches its flesh shall become
consecrated….” What’s the point? An atoning sacrifice, a sacrifice for sin
is a holy thing.
Secondly, notice again in verse 27, if any of
the blood of the sacrifice incidentally or accidentally splatters the garments
of the officiating priest, that garment not only has to be cleaned, it has to be
cleaned in holy precincts. It can’t be taken to the nearby Hebrew
laundry. It’s got to be cleaned right there, on holy ground, in the tent
of meeting. That’s how holy this sacrifice for sin is that’s being offered on
behalf of God’s people.
Then look at verse 28. If a clay vessel is
used to boil and to convey part of this sacrifice, after that clay vessel has
performed its duty, it is to be destroyed. It’s to be broken, because it
can’t be cleansed, and it’s touched something which has conveyed a holy atoning
sacrifice; and so, the only thing to do with it is to destroy it.
If a bronze vessel, fourthly (look at verse 28) is
used, if some sort of a brazen vessel is used to boil and to convey this sin
offering, then it is to be scoured and rinsed before it is used again.
And again in verse 28-29, only the male
priests, only the males of the Aaron line, the priestly line are allowed to
partake of the remains of the portion of this particular sacrifice.
There were some sacrifices that were allowed to be used by the whole families of
the priests, but there were some that were reserved for the priests only, in
order to emphasize, to convey the holiness of the atoning sacrifice. And by
conveying the holiness of this sacrifice, we get something of the sense of the
gravity of sin. It’s a serious thing to have to deal with sins, because sin is
exceedingly serious in the eyes of God. The atonement is necessary, and the
provision of God for the atonement of His people is holy.
Bonar says in his wonderful commentary on Leviticus,
“All these sacrifices were to be regarded with awful
reverence, for it was as if the worshippers were standing at the cross where the
Mary’s stood and saw the Savior die; or, it was like the heavenly hosts, when
they saw the disembodied soul of the Redeemer come in before the Father at the
moment the last mite was paid, and He had cried, ‘It is finished!’ Was there
ever such an hour in heaven? Or shall there ever be such an hour in heaven or
earth? Even in the act of accepting the atonement made, how solemnly does the
soul feel that receives it. See Isaiah, when the live coal touches his lips.
What then must have been the hour when atonement itself was spread out complete?
The hour when a lost sheep returns is solemn, but what is this to the hour when
the Shepherd Himself returns?”
This ritual treatment of the holiness of the sin
sacrifice points to the infinite holiness and value and purity of the One who
was offered as a sacrifice for our sin.
III. Sin/purification offerings
for the whole congregation or the priest, are to be entirely, completely burned
Thirdly and finally, if we look at verse 30 we
notice that when the priest is offering up a sin or purification offering not
for an individual worshipper, or for a ruler from the congregation, but for the
priests or for the whole community including the priests, no part of that sin or
purification offering is to be eaten. It is to be entirely, it is to be
completely burned with fire. Look at verse 30:
“…no sin offering of which any of the blood is
brought into the tent of meeting…” and we know from Leviticus 4 that those
were the offerings that were offered for the whole community, including the
priests, or offered on behalf of the priests
“…no sin offering of which any of the blood is brought into the tent of
meeting to make atonement in the holy place shall be eaten. It shall be burned
No part of those kinds
of offerings is to be consumed by the priests, because in those kinds of
offerings the priests themselves have an interest in, have a portion in the
cleansing efficacy of those offerings. The priests themselves are involved in
the provision of atonement. They have a need for the provision of atonement
which is in view to being secured by the offering of those offerings. And this
again reminds us of the dual standing of the priests. On the one hand, they’re
mediators. And when they act as mediators in the sin offerings of individual
Israelites or leaders of the Israelites, they eat a portion of this offering in
order to assure the worshipper. But when they themselves stand in need of the
forgiveness of sins, as sinners in need of forgiveness, they have no portion of
this offering. It is entirely, it is wholly, it is completely offered up:
burned with fire.
And this reminds us that
different aspects of the sin and purification sacrifice highlight different
truths. When the priest partakes of the offering, it indicates to us our
restored fellowship with God, and so the offering functions to assure us of that
restored fellowship as we see the priest eating it.
But when the priest does
not partake of it and the offering is not completely offered up to the Lord, the
entireness and the completeness of the congregational purification indicates to
us the entireness of the Savior’s work. The transfer of the offerer’s guilt,
especially when the whole community is involved…the transfer of the offerer’s
guilt to that sin-sacrifice is so complete that the whole victim is consumed.
And this beautifully shows to us the entireness, or the completeness of the
sacrifice necessary to restore fellowship between God and His people, when His
people have violated all the terms of the relationship with Him.
We are reminded of
Paul’s words in II Corinthians 5:21, aren’t we? “He made Him who knew no sin to
be sin for us, that we in Him might become the righteousness of God.” This sin
or purification offering points to the completeness of the congregational
purification and the entirety of the Savior’s work and in itself points to the
limitations of the Old Testament ceremonial system that could only be fulfilled
in the person and work of Jesus Christ.
Take your hymnals out
and turn with me to No. 242. We sang about this earlier tonight, that wonderful
rendering of Psalm 130 by Martin Luther. But you’ll see it again in hymn No.
“Not all the blood of beasts on Jewish altars slain
Could give the guilty conscience peace,
Or wash away the stain.
But Christ, the heavenly Lamb, takes all our sins away;
A sacrifice of nobler name and richer blood than they.
My faith would lay her hand on that dear head of Thine,
When like a penitent I stand and there confess my sin.
My soul looked back to see the burdens Thou didst bear
When hanging on the cursed tree
And knows her guilt was there.
Believing we rejoice to see the curse removed.
We bless the Lamb with cheerful voice,
And sing His bleeding love.”
You see how Watts takes
the symbol of the Jewish worshipper laying his hand on the sin offering, thus
indicating the transfer of his guilt, the imputation of his guilt to the sin
offering; and the sin offering offered up wholly and completely on his behalf to
the Lord. And he transfers that picture to our faith, laying our hands on the
Savior’s head, and then looking back to the cross and seeing the whole of our
Savior offered up completely and entirely to the Lord, and knowing that we have
been accepted. The curse has been removed because of His bleeding love.
So this passage–it
points to the way that God assures us of our acceptance by the atoning work of
Jesus Christ, and it points to the sinfulness of sin and to the holiness of the
offering that the Lord has offered up on our behalf in Jesus Christ; and it
points to the entireness and the completeness of the provision for sins which we
have in the person and work of the Lord Jesus.
May God enable us to
believe and rest on Him alone for salvation as He is offered in the gospel.
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